Johanna Konta makes winning return to action after French Open run

Johanna Konta
Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta made a seamless transition from clay to grass with an impressive first-round win at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

The British number one defeated big-hitting Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-2 in her first match since her brilliant run to the French Open semi-finals.

Konta said: "No single match guarantees anything but I really enjoyed being on the grass playing the match I played today. I had a very tough opponent out there and I had to really make sure that I didn't have too many dips in my level because she was always going to be right there."

Konta had insisted on leaving Paris that there was nothing for her to regret despite a glorious chance to make a first grand slam final.

The 28-year-old was the only player in the last four who had previously reached that stage at a slam but she lost to 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova.

There certainly appears to be no emotional hangover, with Konta saying: "I thought I did a good job at digesting the good things that I did and learning from the things I want to do differently next time.

"More than anything, I think I came away just really looking forward to keep going and keep enjoying playing the tennis that I'm playing.

"I started playing when I was a little girl because I dreamt of being number one in the world and winning grand slams and that is still why I play."

As well as preparing for the grass-court season, Konta has been enjoying following the Women's World Cup and tweeted her support for the England Lionesses during Friday's victory over Argentina.

"I think it's always good to see women in sport being celebrated," she said. "Everyone knows about the men in sport and how well they do.

"So it's nice to see the good things and sometimes the hardships that come also with the female athletes because I think it's just as entertaining, it's just as raw and it is just as easy to get behind."

There was disappointment for British number two Heather Watson, who let a lead slip in a 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat by Barbora Strycova.

Watson was unhappy with a number of line calls and declined to shake the umpire's hand at the end of the match.

"I was in a bad mood today," said Watson. "A lot of things were getting to me. I didn't sleep great last night so that is why I was in a bad mood, just over-thinking the match and I just really wanted to win today. And maybe I wanted to win too badly and so I didn't keep my focus.

"I thought there were so many bad line calls. She's sat right on the line and I just thought that was really annoying. In my last two matches that I have played, I've got broken and lost a set purely on bad line calls."

Watson is languishing at 122 in the world rankings and may need a wild card for Wimbledon, but she is at least out of the eight-match winless run that stretched from January to early May.

"I was really upset when I came off the court today because I felt I was the better player most of that match," she said.

"But my coach just put it into perspective for me, thinking back to some of the tournaments we were at earlier on where I literally barely could put balls in the court.

"I was really happy with my level today. There wasn't much in it at all and I thought it was a high-quality match so I am feeling like my game is there and it should come together."

World number three Karolina Pliskova began her campaign with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu but there were defeats for fourth seed Elina Svitolina and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Svitolina, whose season has been disrupted by a knee injury, went down 6-3 3-6 6-4 to Russia's Margarita Gasparyan, while Sabalenka was beaten 6-3 2-6 7-6 (1) by Hsieh Su-wei.

The eye-catching doubles partnership of Venus Williams and young British talent Harriet Dart did not prove fruitful as they suffered a first-round defeat to Nadiia Kichenok and Abigail Spears.

Dart, who faces Yulia Putintseva in singles on Tuesday, more than held her own but Kichenok and Spears won a deciding match tie-break in a 4-6 7-6 (3) 10-7 victory.

"I was a little bit nervous of course but it was such an amazing experience for me and something that I'll cherish for the rest of my life," said 22-year-old Dart.

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